Summer is the perfect time for students of all ages to relax… but it’s also a time when learning loss can occur.
This learning loss is often called the “summer slide,” and happens when children do not engage in educational activities during the summer months.
by Dorothy Amatucci and Sarah Pitcock
As you’re thinking about your kids’ summer vacation, we’ve gathered a few ideas and activities that you and your children — no matter their ages — can complete throughout the summer months to help stop that summer slide.
Research shows that summer is too important to overlook. Without learning opportunities, students (especially those from low-income families) fall behind in math and reading skills over the summer months.
For elementary and middle school students:
- All students can benefit from a trip to the local library.
- Parents of younger students can create a summer reading list with their children, and then reward them when they finish each book.
- Additionally, parents can encourage their kids to think outside of the box with arts and crafts. Sites such as kids.gov and NGA Kids have great ideas that will let any child’s imagination run wild and stimulate creativity.
- Summertime can be a great time to teach healthy eating habits. Parents can get ideas for tasty and nutritious meals at Let’s Move! and kidshealth.org. There is also information available about the USDA Summer Food Program, which was established to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.
How to keep your teens learning this summer
Summer can be a challenging — and pivotal — time to engage high school students in activities that both keep their interest and provide benefits in the long run. It’s no simple task to offer stimulating and valuable options that can compete with the allure of screen time and hanging out with friends.
The good news is that there are many things parents and kids can do to stem the losses, and even accelerate learning and engagement. There are also things parents can do to help older students to find a summer job and get inspired for college and future careers.
Here are ideas on how parents and mentors can engage teens during the summer and give them a leg up on what comes next.
- Look for a summer learning program geared toward teens and the transition to college. Many colleges and universities offer programs that are intellectually challenging, relevant to teens, and help begin to prepare them for college or career.
- Encourage and work with your high school student on setting his or her own goals for college, career, and life. Talk about their talents, what motivates them and why, and arrange a visit to a college that suits their interests and your budget.
- Have your high school student identify a career of interest and research it together online or at your local library. Seek opportunities for him or her to observe or shadow someone in an interesting occupation or connect with a professional mentor, either online or in your community.
- Suggest your teen consider being a mentor or junior staffer in a summer program. High school students make credible and supportive mentors to younger children in summer learning programs, camps, and afterschool programs.
- Help your teen understand what is needed to gain employment, such as a resume and cover letter, filling out a job application and interview skills. Use these activities to prepare for or pursue a summer or afterschool job.
- Plan a service project or volunteer. Volunteer positions can provide valuable experience in job skills such as planning, communication and collaboration. Similarly, service projects can require older youth to research and plan and will expose them to new aspects of their community.
- Planning a summer vacation? Ask your teen to take an active role in the planning. Is your teen’s room in need of a new look? Have him or her sketch ideas, calculate projected expenses and prepare a presentation to make a case for the changes. Research, budgeting, and advocacy are valuable skills.
- Summer is a great time to be outdoors! Encourage your teen to stay active in the summer. Walk or take hikes as a family, and encourage outdoor activities with peers. Don’t forget to also keep healthy snacks around the house, such as fruits and veggies.
- Read a young adult book together with your teen and a group of his friends. Meet regularly for a mini-book club with journaling and discussion about the book.
- Summer can be the perfect time for high school-aged children to prepare for college, and setting aside at least one day a week to keep math and science skills fresh is an excellent way to start off the summer. Local libraries are an excellent place to find books full of practice problems — and they’re quiet and often air-conditioned too!
- Summer is also a good time to sit down and discuss financial aid and other expenses. The US Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid has prepared checklists geared toward students of all ages.
- Many high school students might also want to take the time to start developing their professional resumes. Finding a part-time job can help students gain valuable experience and line their pockets with a bit of extra cash. Visit wh.gov/youthjobs for more information.
- Volunteering is also an option. Youth-oriented summer camps, local museums, animal shelters and, of course, libraries are often looking for extra help during warmer months. This experience is not only valuable for personal and professional development, but it often looks good on college applications. Find opportunities at volunteer.gov.
Having a voice and choice is important to your high school student when deciding how to spend the summer. Collaborate on options and offer ideas, but ultimately, let them choose.